CHICAGO — July marches on and somehow so do the Angels. This team exceeded explanation long ago, and Saturday at Comiskey Park, the Angels went one step further: Angels 15, Chicago White Sox 14.
Now, even seeing isn't believing any more.
Just plain exhausting.
The day began with Kirk McCaskill, the Angels' best starting pitcher, getting pounded for eight runs in two-plus innings.
By the top of the fifth, the Angels had narrowed the gap to 9-8.
Then the Angels scored three more runs in the sixth. Then Jack Howell hit a home run that got Chicago Manager Jim Fregosi thrown out of the game Then, Chili Davis hit his second home run of the game.
Then it rained for 56 minutes.
Then play resumed, and the White Sox scored three more runs, with Fred Manrique and Dan Pasqua hitting ninth-inning home runs.
Then Donnie Moore struck out Daryl Boston.
The Game That Wouldn't Die finally succumbed. A 29-run, 31-hit, 8-home run, 4 1/2-hour struggle ended at last, leaving the Angels winners for the fourth straight time and above .500 (52-51) for the first time since April 17.
"Interesting game, wasn't it?" Angel Manager Cookie Rojas deadpanned. "Since football season just started, I guess this is a good way to start training camp.
"That two-point conversion really helped."
Rojas was alluding to the Hall of Fame game played a couple of Great Lakes away in Canton, Ohio. Bad allusion. The Rams lost that game, 14-7, a veritable pitching duel by comparison.
By the time eight different pitchers had taken their turns on the Comiskey Park mound, the White Sox had blown leads of 5-1 and 9-5, the Angels had hit five home runs in a game for the first time this season and the White Sox had wasted their biggest single-game offensive output of 1988 in defeat.
"We scored 14 runs," Fregosi said. "That's usually a good week for us--and we lose the game."
The White Sox scored their first eight in a hurry. McCaskill, coming off a 2-1 victory over Oakland last Monday, found himself down, 5-1, after two innings--and out of the game before he could get an out in the third.
McCaskill's horrific second inning began with an error by Angel second baseman Johnny Ray, which put Mark Salas on first base. One out later, six straight White Sox batters proceeded to reach base.
Ozzie Guillen tripled. Manrique singled. Gary Redus walked. Steve Lyons tripled. Harold Baines singled. Pasqua walked.
"McCaskill just didn't have . . . today," Rojas said. "No fastball, no curveball, no location. He was just plain bad."
But after the top of the third, he was, incredibly, tied at 5-5.
Wally Joyner drove in two runs with a ground-rule double, Tony Armas followed with a two-run single and the Angels had erased their first four-run deficit against ex-teammate Jerry Reuss.
They would soon have to do it again, just as soon as McCaskill started the next inning. McCaskill faced three batters in the third. Two singled and one doubled.
Rojas was then moved to make moves, some obvious and some, well, unorthodox.
The obvious: Replacing McCaskill with his most rested relief pitcher, Sherman Corbett.
The unorthodox: Having Corbett immediately walk Gary Redus intentionally, thus loading the bases with no outs in the bottom of the third.
The idea was to set up an out at any base. The result was three more Chicago runs, with Lyons doubling in two runs and Baines' sacrifice fly scoring another.
Once again, the Angels trailed by four, 9-5.
Once again, they came back.
First, Davis delivered his first home run of the day, a three-run shot to right off the upper-deck awning in the fifth inning. Then, four singles in the sixth inning put the Angels in front, 11-9.
A Chicago run in the bottom of the sixth made it 11-10 before the Angels resumed the home-run exhibition. Howell hit one in the seventh inning, Davis added another in the eighth and Darrell Miller hit his second of the season in the ninth.
Howell's, however, was disputable--disputable enough to get Fregosi ejected from the game. Howell hit an opposite-field drive down the left-field line that appeared to touch a fan hanging over the yellow home-run line. Howell pulled up at second, thinking it was a ground-rule double, but third-base umpire Vic Voltaggio signaled home run.
Fregosi, thinking along the same lines as Howell, charged Voltaggio and argued until he was blue in the face--and through for the day.
"It hit off the wall (below the home-run line) and bounced back to the field," Fregosi insisted. "Voltaggio said it hit above the fence."
Rojas said he wasn't sure, but conceded that Voltaggio could have been wrong.
The run would prove significant, a couple of hours later. After Pasqua opened the bottom of the eighth with a home run off Angel reliever Stewart Cliburn, the skies opened and the rain poured, interrupting a game the Angels led, 14-11.
"I hated to see that rain," Rojas said. "You don't want to bring back a pitcher after that kind of layoff, but I'm so tight in the bullpen right now, I had to try Cliburn for an inning."